Now that the City of Marco Island will have a team of volunteers to help beachgoers have a good experience there while not intruding on wildlife or other people, we wondered about our knowledge, and yours, on beach dos and don’ts.
So we asked Marco Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie some questions visitors might have and that the beach docents might have to answer. Such as:
“What’s wrong with walking or running through the flocks of birds on the beach. They can just fly to get out of the way, right?”
Nancy: “The birds have migrated thousands of miles and are resting and feeding on our beaches before they head south or north on their flights. To constantly agitate or move the birds makes them use up much-needed energy stores. Then when they finally leave, they may not have enough energy to make the migration.
“It would be like someone driving a lawn mower through your living room while you are trying to take a nap on the couch after flying half way around the world.”
“Why shouldn’t we feed the birds?”
Nancy: “Some people think it’s fun think they’re doing a good thing for the birds. But no wildlife needs to be fed or helped to find food.
“Shorebirds eat fish and invertebrates and do not need crackers or bread to supplement their diet. Feeding birds, and other wildlife attracts other predators and makes an animal dependent on humans. If the bird, or other wildlife, is immature and learning to feed and hunt but is fed by a person, it may not learn on its own and eventually may not make it.”
Look, conchs everywhere! Let’s make chowder!
“What’s wrong with collecting shells?”
Nancy: You can collect shells, just not “live” shells. Live shells contain living organisms, either the animal that created the shell or an animal that is using the shell as a protective home, such as a hermit crab. Always check inside a shell to see if there is ‘someone’ in it. If unsure, leave it on the beach!”
“Why can’t we take our dogs to the beach?”
Nancy: “I love dogs and I love the beach, but our beach, with all its wildlife species, is just not compatible with dogs. Dogs naturally disturb and run at birds. Just seeing a four-legged creature alarms a nesting/resting shorebird and/or a sea turtle that would want to nest.
“There also are issues about waste clean up, leashed or unleashed, and disturbance to other beachgoers who are not as fond of dogs as the pet owner.”
“Why are some areas of the beach roped off?”
Nancy: “The area permanently posted is the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area. It’s for habitat conservation and bird protection for resting, feeding and foraging shorebirds.
“This is one of the top four “flyways” for worldwide bird migration and habitat for dozens of protected/listed shorebirds such as plovers, skimmers terns and others.
“The temporary posting from mid April to August is to protect nests, eggs and the flightless young shorebirds.”
Lights out at 9 p.m.
“Why must we keep beach area lights off on summer nights?”
Nancy: “May through August is Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting and hatching season. Artificial lights disorient the nesting female turtles and later the hatchlings that naturally follow moonlight and starlight reflecting off the gulf.”
For more information contact Nancy Richie at email@example.com or 239-389-5003. And thanks to our fledgling beach stewards.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: email@example.com.